Saturday morning while running, I had one of the most bizarre and scary experiences ever. It's one of those moments that you never expect to happen, but often wonder how you will react if it ever does.
I'll start at the beginning. I got up at 3:45 am to get in a quick run before we flew to Kona for the Ironman. Yes it seems excessive to get up that early, but family and work obligations and a pool closed due to mechanical problems kept me from getting my workouts in on Friday. So a quick jaunt around my neighborhood seemed like a good way to approach a day that would involve about 16 hours of traveling and sitting on airplanes.
I left the house at 4:10 and expected to have the roads to myself at such an early hour, but I stayed close to home on back roads just in case drivers (if there were any) weren't paying attention. And I did - have the road to myself, that is. Right up until about 4:35. I was five minutes away from my house and I had stopped to walk and stretch a bit. It was then I saw a car approaching. All I could see was a couple of high beams. I proceeded, wary that the car appeared to be slowing down. I stopped dead in my tracks, my heartbeat beginning to race, wondering what anyone could possibly want from me at that time of the morning?
It's one of my biggest fears - that some crazy nut will try to attack me or grab me while running in the dark (this is precisely why I stay close to home when it's dark out). And know better because I've actually BEEN stalked more than once - and that was in the light of day.
The car rolled to a stop. Still unable to see ANYTHING because of the high beam headlights, I started backing away. I heard a man's voice. His exact words were: "What're you doing?"
I was instantly stricken with terror. My brain went into overload as I quickly glanced around to determine exactly where I was on my street. I surveyed my memories to reconstruct the neighborhood and which houses might have alarm systems. Then I took off running. I heard the voice yell: "Come HERE!" but I wasn't stopping. I didn't look back even though I knew he was backing up to follow me. Frantic thoughts rushed through my mind about what to do. I ran into someone's backyard and made my way stumbling over bushes and through other backyards, glancing over my shoulder to see if I was being chased.
Terrified, I continued along, trying to figure out the fastest way home in the dark - in yards I didn't know. I ran into wood piles, mud, and prickers and had to climb over two chicken wire fences after running smack into them. The other thoughts vying for my mind's attention with my pounding heart were: Why did this happen today of all days?! When I was just about to go on my dream trip. Would I make it home? without falling? or seriously injuring myself?
Every time I came to a clearing or had to cross a street, I checked the surroundings first for my pursuant. Eventually I stumbled into my own backyard and sprinted for the back door. It was SO one of those movie moments - will I fumble with the key? Was he in my driveway waiting?
I didn't - fumble with the key, that is - and my back door was open, shut, and locked in record time. I gasped for breath, safe at last.
I took off my muddy shoes and ran upstairs to tell Jim. I scared the crap out of him when I burst into the bathroom to tell him what happened and that we needed to call the police. It was 4:40. We had to leave for the airport at 5:30. He ran to the phone, dialed 911, and told the police dispatcher that someone just "tried to abduct my wife!"
The next moments were perhaps the oddest of all. Jim's expression changed to confusion. I heard him say: "She was in her running clothes.. shorts, a gray shirt.. what does that have to do with..." and he looked up at me and he said "she couldn't see the car" - to which I burst out "the high beams were on - I couldn't see if it was a car or a truck or whatever!" After a few more interchanges, Jim looked up at me and said the following...
"It was the police. They're out looking for YOU."
What?! Tell them I'm home safe.
"No, the car was a police car. It was a cop."
And then... "He wants to talk to you. He's coming here."
Does he know we have to fly out this morning?? I started to panic - it was a lot easier with an already-elevated heart rate. I still had to finish packing, take a shower, and get dressed. Jim did too.
Then came my questions and the yelling. Why didn't he identify himself? I couldn't see that it was a police car! He said "What are you doing?" NOT "Ma'am, I'm a police officer, why are you on the street at this hour?" or "are you ok?" For cryin' out loud, why didn't he turn on his police lights or siren?
I was pacing - no, I was panicking. Why did he want to talk to me? Do you think he's going to apologize for scaring the living crap out of me? I told Jim to go finish his shower and I'd handle it.
Two police cars pulled into the driveway. I yelled to Jim to come back downstairs. I opened the door to talk to them. One was young, clean cut, and tall. The other was elderly and could lose a few pounds. He spoke first - he said, with an angry tone: "I'm the GUY!"
I immediately went on the defensive - I had NO idea you were in a police car - I couldn't see anything with the high beams.
He defended himself, telling me all he saw was someone wandering the streets in the middle of the night (it was 4:30 am), he didn't know what I was doing there, and then I took off running when he questioned me.
I said "you scared me to death, you never identified yourself as a police officer."
He said "I was in a fully marked police car (um, was he deaf too?) and I said to you 'Miss, ..'" and then I cut him off.
"No, YOU said (I will never forget it, I can still hear the tone and the voice) 'what're you doing?' and then 'come here!'"
It was clear this was not an apology. In fact, the reason there were two cops in my driveway was that (according to my husband) it was a manhunt. They were out searching for me. (Needless to say, this incident didn't help promote confidence in my hometown police.) I further defended myself explaining why I was out in the early morning and that I had to catch a plane to Hawaii for the Ironman. This perked up the ears of the younger officer who was very interested in the date, location, weather and other details of "that race in Kona." A little confidence returned.
He wished me luck, I said I was sorry (why was I apologizing?) and they went on their way.
Since it happened, Jim and I have come up with a million questions and more confusion. I was clearly in running shoes and running clothes. I was on a main street. He never identified himself. Even after I ran. Did he think I was a burglar?
It was just... so... bizarre. I still don't know what to think. And I don't regret what I did.
There is one positive outcome: now that I know I can evade the police, what chance would a stalker have?